Twelve years down the track and still our industry is plagued with a lack of knowledge when it comes to building website success. Very few of the websites have moved beyond the online brochure stage, with many of the people responsible for these websites simply struggling with “deer in the headlights” blindness or the 2004 dotbomb syndrome.
Building website success takes hard work, the right team, a product or service that people will pay money for, marketing or exposure and finally, managing return on investment or profitability. Below is what I consider to be the most important building blocks of website success. Attached to each building block is a set of business levers which are used to influence the process. Business levers are essentially the actionable processes we engage to influence performance.
Levers revolve around competitor understanding, comparisons and online audience understanding. The more you understand your competitors and audience online the more effective your decision making is.
Web Value (Demand/ Sales Cycle)
Not exactly a building block, but just as important as an understanding of the website value. The value needs to be easily identifiable to you, the company, and the audience you are targeting. Is there any value besides being an online brochure?
Findability (Marketing/ Awareness)
The levers are the methods and tools used to generate traffic to the website. Traffic to your site will be dictated by how easy it is for people to find your site. Findability is driven by business levers which fall into two categories, namely paid and unpaid traffic. Furthermore, traffic typically falls into categories such as search traffic, direct traffic and referral traffic. The levers for findability are complex, however, once mastered, you start to have some control on your success.
Website usability is influenced by three key factors, namely site architecture and navigational structure, content and persuasion ability and lastly, calls to action and conversions. Structure and content needs to be planned so as to optimise the websites ability move different segments of visitors through an online sales cycle and convert. To do this we should look to understand how visitors are using the website.
For me this is the process of setting measurable goals, key performance indicators and an actionable plan so that success is not only sustainable by ever improving. The true business levers in this building block are knowledgeable people and partners, a decision making path, buy-in from management and sharing the success with other business units. Remember, the skills do not always have to be internal. The ability to take action and demonstrate success to various business units and decision makers is critical.
You will find that a significant portion of your sales comes from returning visitors, so it is important to discover the business levers that generate returning visitors, while at the same time expanding your understanding of returning visitors, by segmenting your visitors. Recency and frequency of visits combined with an understanding of conversions can be highly useful. Does it take one visit or four visits on average before a sales takes place? Can this be influenced?
This is the measurement of your actions and overall website goals. Are sales moving in the right direction, does the return on investment make sense? Conversions are sales not just about sales or an online purchase. Conversions can included white paper downloads, subscriptions, requests for more info and page views of pricing information or contact us pages.
Identify micro conversions, such as product comparison page views, etc that demonstrate intent and progression rather than interaction that is simply window shopping or a random passing through the website.
Perhaps the most important building block of all, but the least used effectively to achieve success is measurability. You need to measure marketing, traffic generation, best sources of traffic, best traffic sources based on conversions, effectiveness of landing pages, effectiveness of individual pages to move traffic closer to conversion, bounce rates, etc. Note, I am not talking about visitors, visits or pageviews.
Always measure with a purpose in mind and an understanding of the actions that need to be taken based on the results. If you are measuring number of conversions based on traffic source, take into consideration spend, etc. But know that the actionable intelligence will be to cut spending in certain areas and increase it in others. In other words the approach is one of optimising marketing spend.
In addition to understanding the building blocks and associated levers of website success, it is also important to understand the effort and reward ratios in a applying the levers to influence website success. As an example, under Findability, two key levers are search engine optimisation (SEO) and search marketing (PPC), both effective in driving traffic to the website, based on target audiences use of search engines and search terms . With SEO, results are influenced by many factors and it is known to take time to achieve results, whereas PPC on the other hand can deliver results from day one, but will be an ongoing and rising cost.
Where so many marketers get it wrong is by not understanding that all the building blocks work collectively to influence success. Focusing on Findability alone, without paying attention to usability and conversion can end up costing you money rather than improving profitability.
Do you need a winning game plan for your website? Feel free to give me a call or send me an email.